Growing Black Locust as a Timber Cash Crop in the Northeast

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Tips for growing black locust from seed collected from desirable parent trees


I'm glad you posted about Black  Locust, as I was slightly confused about growing it here in NY. I read that it was an evasive species, but I've seen it posted for sale. I'm guessing if it's properly maintained, the state is ok with it. 

I believe the official status of Black Locust is discussed in other posts, but the way it was explained to me by a state official a few years back (subject to change) is that as a "restricted species" it can't be introduced in to "new areas".  The interior Adirondack Park was given as an example.  I struggle to think of any other corner of the state where locust hasn't already been well-naturalized for a century or more.  

Yes I read the definition in your love story, and the "New area" is kinda what confused me. If it grows in my area, but not on my property, am I introducing it to a new area? I guess technically I could be, but it could be in the woods next door and I don't know it. 

before I loose this, I want to add this advice shared by Carl Albers (retired Extension specialist and Black Locust admirer) on propagation from root cuttings (vs. seeds, which is covered in one of the documents above).  

Propagation of BL is usually from root cuttings and yes we've done it and have been successful. Follow out root flares until you find roots that are circa 1/2-inch or so in diameter. We have dug these up using garden forks...sometimes the root sections used can be several feet long...dig when the trees are dormant. Place in a moist burlap bag during transit. We used a flat cut on the end of the root towards the tree and a slanted cut towards the end of the root...the distal end...farthest away from the trunk. Cut the root into 6-inch sections, flat cut up, slanted down in the pot/rooting bed. The flat cut should be flush with the soil surface...use a good draining potting soil mix. Collect some soil from BL groves with straight, healthy trees to provide your inoculum...Rhizobia for N-fixation and also the mycorrhizal fungi...add a bit to each pot. Don't over water as this can make problems with fungus gnats worse...if possible move outside as natural enemies will take care of any fungus gnat problems.

adding this insight from Carl (see previous post) to an inquiry on planting a mixed stand of chestnut and locust...

From what I understand the Steiner group was selected from a larger group of clonal trees...the original trees all selections from the wild, planted in plantations for further study/evaluation, and then the 3 Steiner clones were selected from that group. There is a stand of the Steiner clones at the USDA Big Flats Plant Materials Center in Big Flats, New York. There is also a larger, older planting there of black locust (BL) with good form; unfortunately the records for the older stand were lost as a result of the 1972 flood. 

Black locust was imported into Europe circa 1710 and Hungary has had a breeding program geared towards improving tree growth, resilience and timber-form for many years now. 

Black locust will grow on a wide variety of soils, however, you will get the best growth and timber-form on the best sites. Reading through the old USDA literature what they found was that BL grew best on high limestone content soils that were well drained. Poorly drained plantation/orchard sites should be avoided if possible. The ideal soil pH for BL is about 6.5 and for chestnut somewhere between 5.5 and 6.2; so if you were going to try to adjust the soil pH a compromise at 6 should work well.

The old researchers also noted that BL did well on high fertility soils that contained a lot of organic matter. So if you took a soil sample and wished to make some fertility adjustments the prime targets would be noticeable deficiencies as identified by the soil test levels. An application of aged manure or compost would be beneficial.

This summer we experienced a prolonged drought here in western NY. So water management is another topic to think about when planning your orchard. No expert on this but my thought is to plant the trees on a 1 percent slope oriented so that you move any excess water from where it is needed the least (valleys/concave) to where it is needed most (ridges/convex.)

A mixture with chestnuts might work well as locust doesn't shade the ground well, nor it's own trunk for that matter. Again the old research indicated that locust borers prefer not to lay their eggs on shaded stems. They also suggested removing any old locust trees in the vicinity of a new planting as this helps to reduce locust borer populations and damage to the young trees.

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